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Ask the Astronaut: Jim Kelly (Part 2)
10.23.06
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Hi, I'm NASA Astronaut Jim Kelly. As a NASA astronaut, I've had many jobs. But on my two missions to the International Space Station, I was a Space Shuttle pilot!

Before becoming a space shuttle pilot, I had to work very hard in school and I had to practice a lot! Being an astronaut is an exciting job and I'd like to help you learn more about it, so I'm ready to answer some of your questions.

Hi. My name is David and I'm from Pennsylvania. What's it like wearing a space suit?

We actually have two different spacesuits that we wear in orbit. One of them isn't a true spacesuit; it's actually what's called the "pressure suit," and it was primarily used in high-altitude airplanes. And those are the orange suits. We like to call them "pumpkin suits" that we wear for launch and landing.

The spacesuit that we have that's really a spacesuit is what the spacewalkers take out. They're called the EVA suits, or extra-vehicular activity. And those suits are just like a spaceship unto themselves. They've got this big white backpack on the back. It carries oxygen, so it's got air that you can breathe. It's got heating systems, it's got cooling systems to keep you at the right temperature whether you're in the shade or the sunlight.

It's actually got a water supply that you take up with you so you can drink water while you're out there. It's got a little rocket pack that goes on the, on the back of it, so in case you float away from the spaceship, you can actually pull that out and you can actually fly like, like Buck Rogers to get back to the International Space Station or to the shuttle. So the way to think of those white suits is it's just a very mini, one-person spacecraft, and it can do everything the spacecraft can do for about nine hours.

Hi. My name is Jason and I'm from Taiwan. My question is: is there jet lag in outer space?

Jason, that's a great question. You know, think about people getting jetlag. They travel east, they travel west, they get through a lot of different time zones.

You know, you're going to bed three hours earlier than you're supposed to. And jet lag can be a big problem for folks here on Earth. Now, in outer space, it's an even bigger problem because we actually rotate around the Earth once every 90 minutes.

So jetlag is so extreme that we don't even call it jetlag up there. We just know that you're going to be in a different cycle. The way we combat that is we make sure that we structure our day much the same as you would structure a day down here on Earth.

We try to schedule about seven to eight hours of sleep and about 16 to 17 hours of wake time. During that time, when you're going to sleep, it's very hard to sleep. If you were just laying there like you normally do in your bed at home and you had every 90 minutes daylight and darkness, and daylight and darkness, and daylight and darkness, you can imagine you wouldn't sleep very well.

So what we do is we shade all the windows to make it very, very dark, and we can actually, we take sleep kits with us and they're like these masks you put over your eyes so you can't see anything. We put earplugs in our ears and you get a sleeping bag that actually ties you to the wall.

You can put your arms around yourself and kind of curl up and, and, and be attached to the wall, and that helps us sleep at night. And we stay in that same schedule within an hour or two for the entire space flight.

Hi. My name is Colton. I'm from Ontario, Canada. I'd like to know where astronauts live and train.

Well, Colton, almost all of the astronauts live and train in Houston. We've got astronauts that actually spread all over the globe. They're doing different jobs that help us to do our jobs when we're flying in space.

We've got many astronauts from your own home country of Canada. But when we're actually training to go fly in space from wherever we happen to be, whether it's Canada or Japan or Russia, and you're going to fly in a U.S. space vehicle, you're going to fly on the, on the space shuttle, you come to Houston and you'll stay in Houston for about a year to a year and a half's time to train and get ready to go fly.

You may do a lot of traveling to all those countries. You may travel to Canada to work on the Canadian robotic arms.

So we'll go to different places to train. We'll actually live and work in Houston until it's time to go launch. When it's time to go launch, we'll go down to Florida and launch from the East Coast.

Thanks, kids! Those were great questions. Remember, if you study hard and practice a lot, you can reach your goals too!

I'm astronaut Jim Kelly. See you next time!

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